The Preachers and the Powers That BE(T): Black Youth, Moral Panic and Public Theological Discourse in the Era of Hip-Hop
McCormack, Michael Brandon
This dissertation analyzes the relationships between black religious discourse and the moral panic surrounding contemporary black youth culture. Focusing on the public discourses of black preachers (i.e. sermons, essays, articles, interviews, videos, musical recordings and other public utterances), the dissertation demonstrates the ways that such religious rhetoric both reinforces and resists prevailing perceptions of black youth as morally and socially deviant. At the center of the dissertation are three case studies that probe the interventionist strategies of three black activist preachers, who position themselves within the “prophetic” stream of the Black Church tradition. Each of these ministers make a public theological “turn” to popular culture- and hip-hop in particular- as a site of struggle over the meanings and values that define the social, political, and moral status of black youth within the social imaginary. The case studies in this dissertation resist reductionist readings of both black youth culture and the public theological discourses of black activist preachers. Rather, they reveal the moral complexity of black youth culture, and the moral urgency of a public theological discourse, informed by cultural analysis and criticism, that is committed to the flourishing of black youth in the era of hip-hop.